After losing my first drone, a GoPro Karma, to a tree and ultimately Tupper Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York over a year ago, I have been itching to get back in the air. And since that faithful day, I’ve been wanting to capture this massive tailing pile and concentrating plant. I finally got the chance to yesterday after a fresh snowfall blanketed the region.
The first iron mining operation in the Adirondack Mountains region of New York began circa 1804. The completion of the Champlain Canal in 1823 linked Lake Champlain with the Hudson River. It permitted the shipment of raw iron ore to various industrial centers in the Northeast and the Midwest. The first pig iron blast furnace, fueled by charcoal, was built nearby in 1827. In the early furnaces, iron was melted and agitated as a strong current of air was directed over it for the dissolved impurities to be oxidized. Most of the refined metal was consumed by the agriculture, construction, gas, oil, railroad, and shipbuilding industries.
Iron mining in New York peaked around 1870 and began to decline because of two significant developments. More accessible mines were being developed around Lake Superior in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. With the completion of the Sault Saint Marie Canal in 1855, freighters could travel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, simplifying the transport of ore to the Northeast and Midwest.
Two New York industrialists started this particular company in 1849. Demand for iron ore flourished in the early years of World War II due to the high demand for steel for the military and was later owned by Republic Steel, which led to the construction of a company-owned town, mine, and concentrating mill.
At the new concentrating mill, iron ore was fed by a conveyor belt to high-intensity wet magnetic separators. The metal was then passed over several screens to separate the rock into different sizes. While the tailings were discharged to a waste tailings area, other types of stone were fed into concrete silos and crushed for use as a roadway base and for mixing into the asphalt. Republic Steel sent the concentrated and sintered iron by rail to its integrated steel mills in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Youngstown, Ohio, and Warren, Ohio.
Shafts that were 3,000 feet below the ground and veins that extended in all directions for miles led to very high costs for the mining operations. Republic Steel idled the mine and concentrating plant in 1971 and closed activities for good in 1980.
Decades after the plant closure, the buildings, and waste tailings remain. The residuals in of themselves are impressive as they approach 1,000 feet in elevation, in comparison to the nearby mountain that clocks in at 1,102 feet.